This is no Twinkie, but it sort of looks like one and also has a similarly long shelf-life. BBC reports that the U.S. Army, having compassion on all the soldiers who have to eat Meals Ready to Eat (MREs), set out to make something a bit more appetizing, but with that comes challenges of keeping food fresh in the field.
"Hands down worst MRE made is the veggie omelet. It's like eating soggy cardboard is the best way to describe it," a soldier in BBC's video report said.
So food scientists came up with another option -- something that would make the Earl of Sandwich proud. Researchers created a sandwich that will stay good for up to three years -- provided it isn't exposed to air or water. As Dr. George McGavin reports for the BBC, the U.S. Army is "on the frontline in the war against decay."
The first thing food scientists needed to do in order to prevent bacterial growth and aid in "extreme food preservation," according to BBC, was to control the moisture. Popular Science describes what the researchers did to combat moisture, which would contribute to decay:
To do this, food scientists started with ingredients like sugar (in jams or jellies for instance), salt, or honey that contain moisture but also retain it, keeping it out of contact with other ingredients. Think about a fresh tomato; on a sandwich, it will quickly cause the bread to become soggy as water from the tomato soaks into the bread. But jelly or honey on toast, though moist, doesn’t impart its moisture to the bread. Using ingredients that lock their moisture inside was key to the process.
The sandwich would also need to be protected from oxygen. The researchers include a pouch of iron filings in the sandwich packaging to trap any oxygen within.
But what of the taste? Without taste bud approval all the work of improving MRE's would be for naught. BBC reports the following quotes from a couple soldiers:
"It's defninetly the best 2-year-old sandwich I've ever had."
"The bread just makes it."
So, even though this sandwich may look like a straight-from-the-freezer Hot Pocket, McGavin says "this is one seriously high-tech sandwich." Watch the full video report by BBC here.